Brazil's Vale raises emergency watch level for its Gongo Soco mine dam after heavy rain

FILE PHOTO: A view of a road near the Gongo Soco mine operated by Vale SA that was evacuated, in Barao de Cocais, Brazil February 8, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale SA has raised the emergency level at the Sul Inferior dam at its Gongo Soco mine in Barão de Cocais, in the southern state of Minas Gerais, after heavy rainfall eroded the structure’s reservoir.

“As a result of unusually heavy rain, Vale reinforced the number of field teams on standby for any eventual emergencies,” Vale said in a securities filing late on Saturday, adding that the dam was raised to ‘Level 2’ watch from ‘Level 1’.

The dam is safe and secure, Vale said, but had been on Level 1 watch due to its proximity to the Sul Superior dam, which remains at Level 3, the most critical level that indicates a dam burst is “imminent or underway”.

The heavy rains and storms that have swept through Minas Gerais and other states in the south east of Brazil have killed at least 30 people, according to authorities. Local media put the death toll at more than 40.

Vale’s securities filing came a year since the collapse of a tailings dam at its mine in the town of Brumadinho, also in the state of Minas Gerais, that killed more than 250 people in one of the world’s worst mining disasters.

Reporting by Jamie McGeever, editing by Louise Heavens